Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wallpaper Cards and a True-as-Told Story

Fritz's grandparents owned a construction business in Germany in the 1950s through the mid 1990s. As part of their company, they had a small store that sold paint, wallpaper, and basic craft supplies. After Fritz's grandfather passed away in the mid 1960s, the business was run by Fritz's grandmother and Fritz's mother. The story, as it's been told to me, is that being a women-owned construction business in the 60s and 70s was difficult. But Fritz's grandmother was smart as a whip. She talked her daughter into getting a degree in the trade, as a contractor, rather than attending the college-bound high school. The two of them proceeded to run the business for several more decades while raising Fritz and his brother.

By the time I met Fritz, he and his mother were long burnt out by the construction industry. After working construction in high school during the summer, Fritz couldn't wait to get as far away from physical labor as possible. He went into science. When we met, he told me "I went into science so I could pay someone else to do physical labor." And he did stay comfortably distant from construction until he met me. {Wink.} Fritz's mother eventually went to art school and today supports herself as a professional artist. The family business was eventually sold, but the company store sat untouched for decades. Only Fritz's mother used the aisles of the store to hold her larger sculptures and paintings. Otherwise, the store looked the same as the day it closed, plus some dust and cobwebs.

After Fritz's grandmother passed away, we began the slow and sometimes surprisingly painful process of clearing out the company store. Some things, like old cans of paint, were obvious to go. But some things, like the wallpaper, were so intriguing! Fritz and I were drawn to the crazy patterns and dated designs. (I've started selling them here. You don't need to buy; just looking can be fun.) What to do with all of it has been a bit of a puzzle. There were many times we thought we should just be minimalists and let it go. But then there have also been lots of times when digging into the wallpaper pile felt like an exclusive shopping experience, minus the money and time. Over the years, we've used the wallpaper to make artwork for our first apartment (some photos of those here), wrap gifts, design cards, do large kid-paintings and create garland.

This is one of my favorite cards, a Christmas card from when we were still living in Germany. I ran across it the other day while I was looking for an old Christmas photo. The wallpaper is NOT pre pasted, making it easy to run through an inkjet printer. I even made envelopes out of wallpaper. Obviously, this was before children, when I had a lot time on my hands.

Tree printed on the backside of the wallpaper.
Wallpaper design is inside the trifold card.
That would be the wallpaper on the left and the story of the Christmas tree on the right.
The story of the Christmas tree was designed and printed on back of the wallpaper by me.

Inside of the card and wallpaper. No idea who these girls are in the photo.
I didn't have any of the photos we originally used, so I substituted with a photo from an ad. 
"Back" of the wallpaper. Printed with inkjet printer.

For several years now, I've been purchasing photo holiday cards. But this year, I'm thinking about making cards again. Some times I really miss how personal and intimate handmade items can be. There's also something special about this long, circuitous story by which wallpaper comes to be a handmade card. There's something comforting about an actual physical item attached to a story, especially in a world filled with electronic data that may or may not be genuine. And between the story and the time and the item itself? Well, it has a complexity that surpasses a empty dollar amount. That's kind of cool, right?


Anonymous said...

Super cool! But how do you make the wallpaper 'unbend'?
Is it thick enough to stay flat once unrolled?

Ann Wyse said...

I used the steam setting on the iron to iron it flat before I put it through the inkjet printer. Since wallpaper is designed to get wet during the pasting process, it holds up to moisture better than average white copy paper.

The wallpaper since has a bit of flop to it, you can see this in the photos. In some of the other cards I made, I actually mounted the wallpaper to a piece of regular paper. Between the regular paper and the wallpaper, it had enough heft to stay quite flat.

Pregnantly Plump said...

They look so cool! And what an awesome thing to have a lot of! I like wallpaper. It's neat to have such a good story to go with it! I think it would be very difficult, but I saw a child's wooden chair wrapped in maps on pinterest. I bet wallpaper could make a little wooden chair look amazing... although it would be tough getting around all the corners and edges.

Ann Wyse said...

Oh, Pregnantly Plump, that's such a great idea! I'm going to put it on my list to try! THANK YOU!!!

Idena said...

Oh this is beautiful! LOVE LOVE LOVE this card!